Only PPS superintendent candidate withdraws

PPS board says Dr. Donyall Dickey's decision to withdraw was mutual

Dr. Donyall Dickey, the Chief Schools Officer and Chief Academic Officer for Atlanta Public Schools, is a finalist for Portland Public Schools superintendent (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Donyall Dickey, the Chief Schools Officer and Chief Academic Officer for Atlanta Public Schools, is a finalist for Portland Public Schools superintendent (Courtesy photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Citing a misalignment of expectations, the Portland Public Schools Board announced Thursday the only candidate to become the next superintendent withdrew his application.

Dr. Donyall Dickey was expected to become the district’s next superintendent when he was identified as the sole candidate in early March.

At a press conference Thursday, PPS Board Chair Tom Koehler said he and his colleagues did due diligence in their vetting of Dickey, but ultimately found he was not the best fit for the position. He said the board did not ask Dickey to withdraw.

“From our standpoint he has a bright future and we made the right decision mutually, together,” Koehler said. “This is too important of a position to not be 100% sure.”

PPS will continue working to find its next superintendent through a search firm that it has a $75,000 open contract with. The district will open its search on the national level, although Koehler said there are currently people in the running.

“We will get together as a board and figure out what our next steps are,” he said. “There are candidates out there that would love to come to Portland and we would love to talk to them and get the right person and the right fit.”

Interim Superintendent Bob McKean will continue leading the district until July 1. He said he will be available for advice and counsel even after leaving his position.

“We clearly have some distance to go… but we will attract a high caliber candidate,” McKean said “Sometimes you take a step sideways to take a step forward.”

In a letter written Thursday, Dickey thanked the board for the opportunity. He said everyone he met throughout the process was “both kind and gracious.”

“After deep reflections, I have decided to pursue other pre K-12 opportunities and to continue my consulting work, supporting other school districts in their effort to implement reforms that improve achievement for all students,” Dickey wrote.

A rising star in education on the East Coast, Dickey said he is a “unicorn” for having worked at many levels of the pre K-12 scene, and that he is “designed for turbulence” that tends to come with the job. Leading PPS would have been his 4th job in 4 years.

Portland Public Schools sent the following letter to parents on Thursday:

Dear PPS families,

Today our finalist for PPS Superintendent Dr. Donyall Dickey withdrew his candidacy. We know his decision was not made lightly and we respect it. After a thorough and comprehensive process we came to a mutual understanding that our expectations for the job were not in complete alignment.
Dr. Dickey is a talented educator who has an impressive record of improving student success – and he has a bright future in education. We wish him only the best in the next phase of his career.

Our responsibility as a Board is to make the best decisions on behalf of our students and the taxpayers we serve. We now must turn our attention forward.

PPS has a remarkable team. We have an active parent community, an inspiring student body, a creative force of teachers and a dedicated administrative staff led by Interim Superintendent Bob McKean and Deputy CEO Yousef Awwad. We are very confident we will hire a permanent superintendent who will help lead our district in our next phase because of what we have to offer – a vibrant, caring city with a passion for public education.

We will not let this decision distract from the great work happening across our schools or stop us from pressing ahead on important initiatives like literacy adoption, middle school curriculum, health and safety improvements in our schools, and building 21st century learning facilities for all of our students.

We deeply appreciate the support you give us and your students throughout the year. We look forward to working with you and the newly elected members of the board in our search for a permanent superintendent.

Tom Koehler
Amy Kohnstamm
PPS Board